For filmmakers and screenwriters alike, one of the great things about screenwriter Jurgen Wolff is his ability to make things happen. As you’ll discover in this week’s Filmmaking Stuff guest article – when Jurgen was starting out, he learned very quickly that waiting for a lucky break was a loser’s bet. He decided instead to create his own luck.
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Everybody needs some good luck along the way, but it’s fatal to wait for it to spark your career as a screenwriter. It’s much better to make your own. Let me give you an example:
Back in the Paleolithic Era when I first went to Hollywood, I arrived with no contacts and very little money. I quickly realized that the business was not waiting for me with open arms. I daydreamed about talking to successful writers, agents, producers, and others who knew the score and getting them to tell me their inside information on how to get started as a scriptwriter. Of course those doors were closed, but then I wondered–who DO these people talk to? To journalists! But although I’d done some free-lance journalism, I wasn’t working for any publications.
The solution? I started my own. I called it The Hollywood Scriptwriter. I bashed it out on a typewriter (yes, this was just before word processing on computers took off). I did the layout myself and had it printed at the local copy shop. My first interview was with Danny Simon, comedy writer, from whom I was taking a class. My second was with a producer who’d been a guest speaker at Danny’s class. That gave my modest little publication credibility, and it got a further boost when I sent it to the L.A. Times and they gave it a nice write-up.
Suddenly the doors that usually are slammed in the face of a new writer in town opened. I got to interview Hollywood’s top TV producer, Stephen Cannell, and the creator of the TV series, M*A*S*H* Larry Gelbhart, and many more. I applied their advice and information, got an agent, and started working regularly, first writing sitcoms, then TV movies, then doing feature script doctoring.
When I started teaching screenwriting and wanted to get a bit more visibility, I and my friend Kerry Cox, to whom I sold the publication when I got too busy to do it anymore, pulled together a batch of the interviews and other materials into a book that was published by Writer’s Digest. I did another one on Sitcom writing for St. Martin’s Press,and Kerry and I did a third book of just interviews for Lone Eagle Press.
I wish this showed I’m a genius, but I’m not. I’m just a guy who realized fairly early that marketing yourself and your writing is a crucial part of what we scriptwriters have to do, and that if we’re as creative about that as we are about the writing itself, we can move forward ahead of the pack.
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